Plants that are native to the American Southwest that exist without supplemental irrigation once established.
Yuccas for Texas High Plains Landscapes
Most notable in the meadows and fields of California, the California poppy grows throughout the southwest. Considered to be both annual and perennial, it either comes back the next year or it reseeds. Once you have a stand established, it should continue in your landscape, but not invasively so. This past summer of 2012, my California poppies bloomed in both the spring and our unusual fall. Blooms in April and May. Finely cut blue-green foliage make an attract plant outside the bloom period. The foliage should die back in summer.
The Arizona rosewood is classified either as a quite tall shrub or short to mid height tree. One of it's best features is that it is evergreen, with slender glossy green leaves approximately 3 inches long. It puts on small white flowers in summer. One of the few drought tolerant, native, evergreen trees available in the trade. Slow growing.
Purple or desert sage prefers leaner, quick draining soils. It is said to grow 2-3 feet tall and deeply branched with silver gray foliage and a profusion of violet bluish flowers atop spikes in late spring and summer. Low water-use, but does better with once a month irrigation. One of the finest flowers of the desert, it is the sage of Riders of the Purple Sage, by Zane Grey. Grows throughout the Great Basin Desert.
Curl leaf mountain mahogany is a medium height evergreen shrub native to elevations between 5000-10,000 feet throughout the Southwest. Small oval shaped dark green leaves lightly curl under at the margins are evergreen and aromatic. Small yellow flowers in spring time that develop into grain size fruits with a feathery tail attached to one end (similar to other mountain mahoganies). Slow growing and long lived, it can reach a height of 20 feet or more, but is more typically 6-12 feet. Densely branched. Cold hardy, drought and heat tolerant.
Gayfeather is one of the High Plains jewels of autumn, sending up grasslike leaves or stalks that bloom gloriously in September and October to fuzzy purple spikes. At maturity, one plant can grow a dozen or more, size and number depending on rainfall amounts. Drier years, the stalks are few and short, but with monthly or twice a month watering, the plant displays much more vitality. The purple flowers contrast nicely with the many yellow flowers that bloom on the plains. Liatris punctata is the most drought tolerant of the genus.
The only draw back to this pretty, silver-edged groundcover is its flowers! If only it didn’t, it would be a perfect no maintenance, no water groundcover for hot, sunny locations. You can see the tiny ball shaped flower heads in the picture, which look rather indistinct. However, after flowering, they turn an ugly shade of brown that mar the beautiful leaves unless you shear them off. Though a creeping groundcover, silver-edged horehound is not invasive like the common horehound, M. vulgare.
Native perennial wildflower that will bloom periodically from spring into fall (presumably when there is adequate moisture). I have seen it many times in nature in the Texas Panhandle and West Texas. After the flowers have peaked, they do not fall off, but turn light and papery. They make a good dried flower. Reseeds!
This wildflower is toxic to sheep and possibly cattle. Humans should not eat any part of this plant. The flowers are fragrant and are attractive to bees, birds and butterflies.
The Calylophus genus is one of the best Southwest native plants for Panhandle gardens. Heat and drought tolerant, long blooming with little to no care, what garden would be without it? Sunny yellow 4 petaled sundrop flowers bloom in an explosion in spring, and respectably during the remaining growing season, especially when given a once a month inch of water during drought conditions. Each individual flower lasts only a day, tight compact mounds sport the orange spent blooms as well as the new bright yellow flower.
Big Bend silverleaf is the most cold hardy of the Leucophyllums and has wintered over in Amarillo, Zone 7, for 5 years so far. Possibly cold hardy to Zone 6. It is hard to beat a more attractive summer blooming shrub for small xeric spaces. After summer rainfalls, Big Bend silverleaf, native to the Big Bend National Park area, becomes covered in silver blue flowers that twinkle like jewels among its silvery gray leaves. Hard to find, it's worth searching for.
Raspberry hybrid bush sage is very similar in appearance to Salvia greggii, blooming April through November. It's two-lipped flowers with a pleasant deep raspberry color, and the mahogany calyces contrast nicely. 'Raspberry Delight' is a hybrid cross between Salvia greggii 'Furman's Red' and and a high altitude collection of Salvia microphylla from central Arizona. Woody and brittle branches with small oval shaped leaves that hang on to the plant sometimes through the winter, as they do on S. greggii.
Mountain mahogany is native to the Texas Panhandle and throughout the Southwest, found in elevations from 3000-9500 ft. Another common name is Alderleaf mountain mahogany, because its leaves resemble that of an alder. Mountain mahogany, whose wood is very hard (Palo Duro) is found in Palo Duro Canyon. Extremely drought tolerant, it will survive on 10 inches of rainfall. An aromatic shrub with shredding reddish bark, but can grow to tree size. Mountain mahogany's flowers are small, rayless and insignificant, as they are in the other species.
Showy evening primrose is a plains states native, including the Texas Panhandle. Showy evening primrose blooms whitish pink in late spring, with each flower lasting a single day, opening in the morning and closing later in the day. The leaves are green narrow and lance-like and emerge from spreading rhizomes. The plant spreads prolifically by rhizomes and seeds, especially in amended and well watered soil. It is not well mannered in a mixed bed or border, I consider it invasive for the garden.
Native wildflower that likes it lean and mean. Over watering and well amended soil will usually cause Blackfoot daisy to die a premature death, even for a short lived perennial, such as it is. It would be an ideal border plant, similar to alyssum, if not for its tendency to move about where it will (that is, die where you plant it and seed somewhere else). Still, it’s worth a try. Our Panhandle xeric gardens should never be without Blackfoot Daisy. In fact, once you plant Blackfoot daisy and let it seed, you should never be without it (and that’s a good thing).
Wagons Ho! Rugged, ragged and windblown -- a true picture of the western and southwestern landscape. If you have a skeleton of a steer's head, now is the time to use it, along with that wagon wheel. Sometimes referred to as the western sage.
Big sagebrush is a coarse, many-branched, aromatic, pale-grey shrub with yellow flowers and light silvery-grey foliage. It flowers in late summer to early fall. The leaves are wedge-shaped with three lobes.
Previously known as Cowenia mexicana, it is known today as Purshia stansburyana, also, P. stansburyiana. It is still commonly called a cliffrose. The cliffrose blooms prolifically in May with creamy white to pale yellow fragrant flowers that continue blooming for several weeks. Semi evergreen, it loses it's leaves in colder winters. Upright stems and branches can appear unruly in its growth pattern; small dark green resinous leaves.
Agaves are striking and architectural Southwest native plants and are included in a group of plants I term Southwest evergreens. They are unusual in that at maturity, they only flower once, and then die. for this reason, some classify them as multiannual, rather than perennial. However, as they common name suggests, it takes many years before they flower. Leaves of the Agave are arranged in a spiral beginning from a near invisible stem, forming a rosette.Agaves vary in size from 4-6 inches to larger than man-size.
Gooseberryleaf globemallow is very close in appearance to scarlet globemallow, Sphaeralcea coccinea, but much taller, up over 2 feet. The leaves are silver green and hairy, resembling the leaves of the current shrubs in shape, so named from the family name of currents and gooseberries, Grossulariaceae. Flowers are orange in color and bloom from May and June, sometimes later in the summer. Native to hot, dry areas semi-arid regions throughout the Southwest and the Great Basin Desert. Prefers good to sharp drainage.
Ephedra minimus is a dwarf version of E. viridis. Woody base with many thin, branched evergreen stems. Rare to find in nurseries, it is appreciated for is evergreen presence and rarity. No leaves or flowers
Prairie verbena is one of my favorite plants, it is one of the first to bloom in the spring and one of the last to be affected by freezes in the fall. Small in stature, but it has my respect for giving so much with so little given (from me) in return. It's short lived, maybe just one year or three. Green, finely cut hairy leaves, with several branched stems that put on clusters of tiny lavender, purple, violet or pink flowers. Blooms from spring to fall. Readily reseeds, not invasively so. Its volunteer seedlings are easy to dig up and transplant.
Echinacea angustifolia is the herbal echinacea. Native throughout most of the Midwest, and the Texas Panhandle. Very drought tolerant. It can be seen growing along roadsides and in nature generally. A good cut flower. The common name Black Samson refers to its roots. Not as showy as E. purpurea and newer introductions.
Low growing, drought tolerant evergreen groundcover that becomes covered in tiny sky blue flowers in early spring for about 6 weeks, then sporadically throughout the year. I’ve seen a few twinkling blue blooms in every month of the year. The tiny leaves of V. pectinata are gray-green and tomentose. Allow plenty of room for the spread of this fabulous groundcover; it’ll just keep going and going and going. And you won’t want it to stop.
Scarlet globemallow is a welcome addition to any xeric or High Desert garden. Small coral flowers bloom from May (sometimes April) through into the fall. Although scarlet globemallow will survive with no additional moisture in our climate, once a month watering insures steady blooms. The plant is similar in appearance to S. ambigua, which can bloom coral, white, lavender and pink.
Not all succulents are cacti, nearly all cacti are succulents (a few exceptions). Nearly all cactus species are native to the Americas, providing a prickly evergreen presence. There are many cactus that are cold hardy for the Texas Panhandle. There might be one for your garden.
Elegant and stately desert perennial. Soft light blue green leaves. Stalks can tower above desert shrubs to 5-6 feet, but usually 2-4 feet, with racemes of yellow flowers similar to cleome or spider plant flowers in springtime. Requires excellent drainage and lean soils. Thrives on selenium rich soils. Native to canyonlands in SW U.S.